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“Midterms Rewarded Personal Irresponsibility”: The Moral Hazard Created By The Republican Midterm Victory

One of the hardiest of conservative memes over the last few decades has been about the moral hazard created by The Welfare State: Helping people who are poor or sick may have some social benefits, but they are far outweighed by the dangers of rewarding personal irresponsibility, you see. People–and sadly, their children–need to suffer visibly and painfully for their failure to achieve success in this, the greatest country in the history of the world, where anyone with some initiative and persistence can do well. Then they’ll shape up or perish, and others will be warned.

This has always been more than a little self-serving for those who thereby celebrate their own righteousness, while often confusing privilege and luck with virtue. But I do see their point a bit better today in thinking about the moral hazard created by the Republican midterm victory of 2014. Paul Krugman crystallized it perfectly:

the biggest secret of the Republican triumph surely lies in the discovery that obstructionism bordering on sabotage is a winning political strategy. From Day 1 of the Obama administration, Mr. McConnell and his colleagues have done everything they could to undermine effective policy, in particular blocking every effort to do the obvious thing — boost infrastructure spending — in a time of low interest rates and high unemployment.

This was, it turned out, bad for America but good for Republicans. Most voters don’t know much about policy details, nor do they understand the legislative process. So all they saw was that the man in the White House wasn’t delivering prosperity — and they punished his party.

You’d better believe that if Republicans are ever in the position Democrats were in when McConnell and company decided on this scorched-earth strategy, this lesson of 2014 will be remembered–because after all, personal irresponsibility was rewarded.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, November 7, 2014

November 8, 2014 Posted by | Midterm Elections, Personal Responsibility, Republicans | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Don’t Be Fooled, GOP Not Trying To Help Hourly Workers”: The Next Attempt By Republicans To Mislead On The Affordable Care Act

If you were paying close attention, you would have heard a new phrase being repeated by Republicans, particularly Mitch McConnell, over the last few days: “restore the 40-hour workweek.” You may have said, “Wait, is the workweek not 40 hours anymore?” If you had no idea what McConnell is talking about—and I’m pretty sure he’s hoping very few people do—it sounds like he’s advocating some kind of pro-worker initiative. And indeed, that’s how he and John Boehner put it in their op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, saying that one of the top items on their agenda is to “restore the traditional 40-hour definition of full-time employment, removing an arbitrary and destructive government barrier to more hours and better pay created by the Affordable Care Act of 2010.”

Now we’re getting closer. The government, with that damn Obamacare, is cutting your hours and pay! As Boehner put it, we have to “restore the 40-hour workweek for American workers that was undone by Obamacare.” Since we’re probably going to be hearing this from a lot of Republicans in the coming days as they wax rhapsodic about their deep concern for America’s hourly workers, it would be good to clarify just what it is they’re talking about here.

So let’s be absolutely clear: what they’re proposing is to make it easier for large employers to have full-time employees to whom they don’t provide health insurance. That’s it.

This is about the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act. It required that companies with 50 or more employees provide health coverage to full-time workers. The mandate has been delayed—for companies with 100 or more workers it takes effect in January, while those with between 50 and 99 will have to comply in 2016. The law’s authors had to define “full-time” somehow, and they knew that if they defined it as someone working 40 hours, then employers could just cut people to 39 and deny them coverage. So they set the line at 30 hours, partly on the assumption that if an employer has a full-time employee, it would be difficult to cut them all the way down to 29 hours to declare them part time and avoid offering the coverage.

One really important thing to understand for context: almost all large employers already offer health coverage. In fact, 96 percent of firms with 50 or more workers do so, even before the mandate kicks in. Among larger firms the number is even higher. For all but a small number of firms, this provision doesn’t matter.

Republicans have always objected to the employer mandate, and they’d like to repeal it entirely. The fact that now McConnell and Boehner are suddenly talking about the question of where the line between part-time and full-time work is suggests strongly that they’re going to be introducing legislation to move that line. It takes a lot of gall to present it as some kind of pro-worker initiative, since what it actually means is, “We want to let your boss cut your hours from 40 to 39, then he’ll be able to take away your health coverage.” But they’re surely hoping that the debate will sound to the public like Republicans want to mitigate the job-killing effects of Obamacare and stand up for workers, while the President just wants government sticking its hand in everybody’s business. And who knows, they might be right.

For the record, there are strong arguments that the employer mandate should indeed be repealed—provided it’s replaced with new provisions that protect people whose employers drop coverage. And I’ve advocated de-coupling health insurance from employment for years. But don’t let Mitch McConnell fool you into thinking he’s trying to help hourly workers.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor,The American Prospect, November 7 2014

November 8, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“One Silver Lining For Liberals”: As Democrats Fall, Minimum Wage Thrives On Election Night

Democrats suffered a series of disastrous defeats on election night, decisively losing their Senate majority and falling short in several gubernatorial races in which they hoped to defeat Republican incumbents. But there was one silver lining for liberals: Tuesday’s elections proved, once again, that the minimum wage is a winning issue.

Initiatives to raise the minimum wage appeared on the ballot in four reliably Republican states. In all four, they passed easily.

Even as Alaskans appeared to boot Democratic senator Mark Begich out of office — he has declined to concede the race — they still overwhelmingly voted to raise their state’s minimum wage to $9.75 per hour. Tellingly, although his future colleagues in the Senate have steadfastly opposed any efforts to raise the federal minimum wage, Republican senator-elect Dan Sullivan announced in September that he would support the state initiative. This was a flip-flop from his position in the Republican primaries, and probably had something to do with polls showing the measure’s overwhelming popularity in the Last Frontier.

Similarly, Republican Tom Cotton’s easy victory over Democratic senator Mark Pryor didn’t stop Arkansans from boosting their minimum wage to $8.50 per hour. Like Sullivan, Cotton decided not to oppose the overwhelmingly popular measure. Although he voted against raising the federal minimum wage as a congressman, he announced in September that he would support the state hike “as a citizen.”

In South Dakota, Republican Mike Rounds easily defeated Democrat Rick Weiland and Independent Larry Pressler. But voters still raised their state’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour. Rounds opposed the measure, while his opponents supported it.

And in Nebraska, Republican Ben Sasse defeated Democrat Dave Domina in a landslide, even as voters raised the state’s minimum wage to $9 per hour. Although Sasse opposed the measure, he avoided discussing the issue on the campaign trail.

More than half of the states in the nation now have minimum wages higher than the federal level.

Clearly, even in red states, there is broad support for one of the key planks of the Democratic economic agenda. But, just as obviously, it was not a determining factor in how midterm voters cast their ballots. This presents an opportunity for congressional Republicans.

The next round of Senate campaigns will take place in a far more liberal battleground than Tuesday’s elections did — and, if history is a guide, they will feature a more liberal electorate. This will put blue-state Republicans like Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) in jeopardy. One easy way for them to blunt the economic attacks sure to come their way on the campaign trail would be joining with Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage.

While the House of Representatives has refused to consider a minimum-wage hike in the past, they may have a different attitude when the bill is coming from a Republican-controlled Senate. After all, they supposedly want to prove that they can govern. And, as Tuesday’s elections prove, conservative voters are unlikely to punish them for giving working families a boost.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, November 5, 2014

November 8, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Midterm Elections, Minimum Wage | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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